Monday, July 25, 2011

Bastion Review

Sometimes you get the feeling that a game is special the moment you lay eyes on it. Bastion’s one of the those games that comes along and reaffirms your creative spirit; each game doesn’t need to break the mold, but great vision, a beautiful art-style, and a dedicated team can do wonders.

The Calamity struck the world of Caelondia destroying the world and leaving only a handful of survivors. In case of global destruction the people of Caelondia were told to go to a safe heaven known as the Bastion – it too is in pieces…and furthermore seemingly only two people are alive.

As “the Kid” you need to try and rebuild the Bastion, and throughout your venture find who or what caused the Calamity that destroyed everything.

The world of Bastion is surreal; it’s almost like a moving watercolor painting. Everything is just gorgeous and has a stunningly unique look. Just walking in Bastion is pretty as the world forms itself under your feet and you never quite know which direction to go until you walk into the abyss.

Your journey isn’t a lonely one as the sweet voice of the first survivor you meet, named Rucks, narrates the quest. If that scares you off, don’t let it – Rucks never says the same thing twice, and his voice is like a buttery smooth blues singer. The narration is the only voice heard, and Rucks doesn’t fail to be both uplifting and dower when talking about the Calamity.

I never played a game where I was physically alone throughout, but it never felt that way; because of the narration you always feel like you have a companion, he may not fight alongside you, but you’re certainly not alone.

In order to rebuild the Bastion you have to retrieve cores, and later on, shards; upon completing a world you can outfit the Bastion to become a sort of home base where you can upgrade weapons, buy items, and battle waves of enemies in a place called “Who Knows Where?”

Any game would fall flat without gameplay that’s rock solid. Bastion is at its heart an adventure game, and the combat is wonderful. You have two buttons to assign a ranged or melee weapon (you can use all ranged weapons or all melee if you choose), and a secret skill. Every swing or shot fired is satisfying and responsive -- you can play how you see fit, be it a more defensive style, blocking and counter-blocking or utilizing the dodge to roll from harm. The combat never got repetitive, nor too challenging that I was gouging my eyes out, everything seems so nicely in sync. Most of the ruins of Caelondia have some item left from the Calamity that can be used to retrofit each weapon to upgrade and dispatch the Squirts and Gas-fellas the rule the land now.

Bastion’s gameplay has the rare quality of making you feel like it’s you fault, not the game, when you fail and die. The controls are so simplistic, yet tight, and the gameplay so reliable that if you parish it’s you who needs to get better it’s not because the game is unfair, you just suck!

Bastion isn’t a long game but it’s paced in a way that it doesn’t feel too short – if that makes sense? The story gets astonishingly deep as you go on, and it’s hard to put the controller down. I love it when I just can’t stop playing, Bastion has that quality; a New Game + feature adds to the replay value too.

Aside from Shadow Complex, Bastion may be the only Xbox Live game that deserved to be priced at $15; it’s worth every bit and more.

If you have access to Xbox Live and you’re looking for something just a little different to play, you have to check out Bastion. It’s among the best that the Xbox Live Arcade has ever offered, and that’s actually saying something. Art, visualization and passion can carry a game into the realm of greatness – Bastion is great and beautiful, and wondrous and irresistible and any other adjective you want to throw around, it’s all of those.

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